On Being an Actor

"But I don't do it to make my mother angry anymore."
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
"I was also a terrific liar as a child, and I believe my lies. So it's a natural step into acting."
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
They're quiet country people and I have no idea where they found the courage to let their son go into this crazy business. Except maybe they knew from the beginning that I'm the kind of person who's either headed for Hollywood or prison!"
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
"I'm real a real workaholic. And granted, the work is physically tiring, but also artistically stimulating."
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
"I'm a fine actor, I have abilities to communicate that are gifts. There is no other reason for me to walk this earth."
People, November 16, 1981
 
"I just thought it meant putting on costumes, riding horses across the desert, shooting bad guys, and sometimes being the bad guy."
Reprinted in Daytime TV: TV Superstars: Soap Opera's Greatest Stories, March 1982
 
"I've finally separated my work from my life to the degree that I now do them both a lot better. I'm not so consumed with the future: Will I be on a soap the rest of my life? Will I ever be a movie star? Should I be on Broadway? I've come to see that it's all about stamina and how much you can tolerate the B.S. And, as the years go by, as I get up in the morning and my body is stiffer and my eyesight is weaker, I can tolerate it all a lot better."
TV Guide, October 26, 1996
 
"When I was 6, I realized that I couldn't become a cartoon."
Soaps in Depth, May 27, 1997, on how he became an actor
 
"Not anymore. I did when I was younger and a foolish man."
Soaps in Depth, May 27, 1997, on whether he takes his work home
 
"I've always been an actor, never expected to do anything else."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"I don't enjoy acting anymore."
Soap Opera Digest, July 22, 1997
 
"It's a blessing to grow older with a feeling you have accomplished something with your career--whether it was what you intended or not."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997
 
"I would also add that art unexpressed is art destroyed. My art is life, my total experience. It's me."
Soap Opera Weekly, February 24, 1998
 
"I do like a good line."
Soap Opera Weekly, February 24, 1998
 
"I learned a long time ago that it's much more interesting to watch an actor try not to cry than to watch him try to cry. So it's all translatable. Life is very translatable into acting."
Soap Opera Magazine on February 9, 1999

On Fame and Fans

"My life has been changed by the success of Luke Spencer, but I feel very good about the recognition I've received. I've worked hard at my craft for fourteen years and it's nice that people finally know my name and respect the work I do. I appreciate the attention and if this is exploitation then let's have more of it!"
Daytime TV's Greatest Stories No. 2, Everything You Want to Know About...General Hospital, 1981
 
"I'll admit that I used to be nervous about making public appearances. I've always considered myself somewhat reserved and even shy at times. But then I realized that I could slip into the character of Luke and give the audience a real show. I've learned to be more comfortable with the fans."
Daytime TV's Greatest Stories No. 2, Everything You Want to Know About...General Hospital, 1981
 
"I used to go out alone a lot and I loved to go dancing, but now, especially in a disco, I can't even get to the dance floor without attracting a crowd. I don't often go out alone anymore. I like to take either a woman or a group of friends along--somebody who's willing to act as a cushion between me and the public. When I'm alone I sometimes wear a disguise--hats, glasses, phony beards--and assume a foreign accent to throw people off the track. Even then I usually get spotted by someone."
Daytime TV's Greatest Stories No. 2, Everything You Want to Know About...General Hospital, 1981
 
"I'm reaping the benefits. And I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing as well as I can. I'm enjoying every minute of it!"
Daytime TV's Greatest Stories No. 2, Everything You Want to Know About...General Hospital, 1981
 
"Everybody wants to know who I am now and I'm pleased with that, because it took me fourteen years to achieve that. But it also causes problems in that I'm a very private person and a loner by choice. Let me make that very clear, because I said that before and an article came out and said, 'The poor guy goes home and cries himself to sleep, he's got nobody to talk to.' Not true."
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
"You know, Luke is more aggressive than I am and I've found that I can take care of a lot of situations by snapping into Luke. So the day of the show, I dressed really Luke-ish, walked onto the stage and three-thousand people went nuts. It was wonderful! I got all my rock-star fantasies out at one time. I felt like the Beatles."
Soap Opera Digest, January 6, 1981
 
"I've been called the J.R. of daytime. Seriously, it's a nice compliment, but I want to know if people ask Larry Hagman how he feels about being the Luke Spencer of nighttime? All I'm saying is that is J.R. more valid than Luke Spencer? They're both pieces of fantasy. Luke was alive before J.R. was alive."
Quoted in the the Tribune (a local paper), November 16, 1981
 

"We ended up at the Hartford Theatre in Hollywood, with my name on the marquee. I was 18, and thought, 'Well, this was real simple, I'm a star.' It took me about 13 years to realize that it was a very auspicious beginning--perhaps too auspicious. I wasn't really prepared to deal with interviews, agents, selling myself."
Reprinted in Daytime TV: TV Superstars: Soap Opera's Greatest Stories, March 1982
 
"I never needed or encouraged idolization. The heartthrob routine disgusted me. I fought it every step of the way."
TV Guide, February 16, 1991
 
"You have no idea how awful it was to go on public appearances where literally hundreds of women would scream, 'Luke, rape me!' Simultaneously, I was attacked by the feminists for having glamorized such a heinous character."
TV Guide, February 16, 1991
 
"To me, fans were people who hung outside my house and left cooked turkeys at the door till they rotted."
TV Guide, February 16, 1991
 
"And I wouldn't be coming back as Luke if I thought that kind of hysteria was possible. There was a time when I wasn't able to leave my house. I don't think that the price will be as great this time. There are more than enough 25-year-old hunks around for them to scream about."
TV Guide, October 16, 1993
 
"It's hard to stand in your own shadow."
Daytime TV, March 1994, on the return of Luke and Laura
 
"We're not going to go after the fans' reaction. That would be a mistake. They'll either like it or they won't, and of course we hope they like it."
Daytime TV, March 1994, on the return of Luke and Laura
 
"If there was anything that put the nail in the coffin for me in terms of being a celebrity as opposed to an actor, it was all the time I spent with Elizabeth Taylor. I wouldn't want that life. The good thing for her is that she's been there since she was 10, so it's all she knows. It's like Luke. 'This is not adventure, this is life.'"
Soap Opera Digest, Spring of 1996
 
"When I did interviews, and certainly when I went on talk shows, it was Mr. Repartee, Mr. Fast Crack, just keep them laughing. And it was so taxing and so unreal. I used to say, 'I'm going to do Luke. How am I going to be able to talk to Merv Griffin tonight? I'm just gonna be Luke. Luke's gonna talk to Merv Griffin.' And indeed, I looked at most of those things and it is Luke; it's certainly not me. In the long run, I think that it was the right thing to do. To me it's a two-edged sword. You need the publicity, you need the relationships. You do. But at the same time you give too much and you've lost what you had, which is the biggest thing you had: the magic."
Soap Opera Weekly, April 16, 1996
 
"Luke's always been about controversy. He was born in controversy, and he's a very controversial character. I don't personally follow it, but I've heard from several sources that the fans are in an uproar about his behavior and his darker side. The Internet is burning up with discussions about it. That's great. If everybody loves you, then that's one thing, but if you've got people who feel so passionately about what you're doing, either positively or negatively, that they actually engage in heated discussions among themselves, that's something else. I like to think of myself as a theater person. And I think I'm a little more European in my approach--theater is to provoke and disturb. I'm not interested in merely entertaining, and I'm certainly not interested in making people comfortable. I always look for a way to keep the audience on edge."
Soap Opera Magazine, November 19, 1996
 
"I also think for me that the more the audience knows about me, the more trouble I have selling Luke. I would rather they be pleased with him than pleased with me. The more people know about you personally, the harder it is to be an open slate to them. So my reserve is not only shyness with the press....but it's also career preservation. I think the less known about me, the more room, the more freedom I have to create.... You get everything when we work, you'll get everything we have to give, but you're not gonna get everything from me when I'm not in front of that camera or on that stage. That's not why I'm in this business. I don't know why other people are such open books. Maybe it's the joy of having their own ego and their character's ego all mixed up. I did that for a while, 20 years ago, 15 years ago. It's murder. Now I'm real clear about keeping me and Luke Spencer separated."
TV Guide website, May 14, 1997
 
"I owe the viewer the best performance I can give. Period."
Soaps in Depth, May 27, 1997
 
"I was young and raw and had no savvy about the press. I was exploited beyond belief. And I participated in my own exploitation to the point where it became very disturbing to me. But I survived that. Now I pick and choose when I agree to do interviews. And, well, now it's Emmy time. Genie and I have been nominated and so has Jonathan Jackson, who plays our son. I've been nominated four times for the Best Actor Emmy and won it 15 years ago. I'd like to get nominated every 15 years. It's an honor and I like to be appreciated by my peers. Actually, I care about anti-recognition. I do my best to stay out of the limelight. One of my favorite places is a small city in Europe where I have an apartment. The people there have no sense of celebrity. They don't know me and they don't care. I've never become accustomed to fame and notoriety. It's an intrusion and it always scares me."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"I don't like to pander to the audience. There's too much of that in our business."
Soap Opera News, June 10, 1997
 
"It happened (years ago) in Chicago, when I made an appearance at a shopping mall. There were close to 10,000 people there, and when I came onstage there was this thunderous noise, a chant, which was, 'Rape me, Luke! Rape me!' It was terribly upsetting. I stopped them and said, 'That's not funny. It doesn't flatter me, and you should think about what you were saying.' What was most disturbing was that the crowd was seeing me as some kind of an object of their...well, I don't know what. I couldn't feel complimented by that kind of attention; I could only feel that it was sick. I was so disturbed by the experience, it took me at least three or four years not to be terrified to walk into a room full of people again."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997
 
"I'd say it's probably a tossup between the time Genie (Francis, Laura) and I were on the cover of Newsweek magazine, which declared GH 'TV's hottest show,' or, right around that same time, when I escaped to a secluded hotel in Jamaica for a few days. When I checked in that night, I found there were two members of the Rolling Stones waiting to meet me."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997, on when he realized the power he had because of his fame
 
"I'd say that whatever power and influence I've achieved has resulted in other people of power and influence listening to me. If you're lucky, they listen with respect--and if you're really lucky, sometimes some of them want to make creative partnerships with you."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997
 
"Yes, it centers around envy and jealousy--which, for me, results in social isolation. And when your stakes are higher, the risks are higher. Then there's also a kind of weird thing that happens with influence: once you have it, it's a real battle to hold onto it. You don't want to give it up, because nobody wants to go back to where they were. I would rather leave the arena than move too far in the back. I don't know--call it pride. Maybe it's a sickness that comes with power and influence."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997, on the price of power
 
"Once you're not struggling anymore, the people who are struggling--while I can relate to their struggle--they can't relate to my perspective on it. So that's isolating to me."
Soap Opera Magazine, October 28, 1997
 
"Within the arena of daytime, it's given me a voice, in which I can speak softly--and not have to carry sticks."
Soap Opera Magazine on October 28, 1997, on what he has gained by having power
 
"People should not be looking to people on television, politicians, nor public figures of any kind as role models. People on TV do not love you, folks. You must connect with the people you know. Whenever I can say, 'Don't do it,' that's my mission in life. I'm an actor playing a character. I'm going to bring you some diversion. I'm not bringing you the answer. I'm the juggler in front of the king. I have no desire, incentive nor raging need to guide my audience anywhere."
Soap Opera Weekly, February 24, 1998
 
"You're like a product, as opposed to a person.... Your face, your image, your hard work and the positive feeling that people in the audience have for you is being used to sell magazines, exploited by tabloids and TV programs. I don't experience it as much as I used to, but it used to make me nuts. I felt like my face--without my agreement, without my participation--was used to sell a magazine, a TV show, and things that I had no interest in."
Soap Opera Weekly, February 24, 1998
 
"What's amazing is people don't realize how precious privacy is. I have an apartment I bought in Copenhagen about a year ago. My grandfather comes from Odensk. What do I like about it? They don't know General Hospital. Nobody knows me. At 50 years old, after playing this game for 30 years, I have found a place where nobody knows me. Nobody cares. You can't explain to somebody whose privacy has never been invaded how important it is. They don't get it. And if you're on TV, they figure you're not entitled to it. That's what burns me.... Don't come up to me, folks, when I'm in a restaurant and interrupt me and fight over my lamb stew. I'm not happy about that.... But my time is so limited on this planet. Do not interrupt me during dinner. It comes down to that. I hate to cut the romance out, but I have always done that."
Soap Opera Weekly, February 24, 1998
 
"I can't worry about the viewers, and I won't adjust the truth to make them comfortable. I don't think they should be comfortable. I don't want 'em sitting on the couch eating Doritos while they watch us. I'd rather they were on their feet screaming: 'How dare Luke do that!'"
TV Guide, March 7, 1998

On Working in Daytime

"If Elizabeth Taylor thinks that soaps are worth working on then I don't want to hear anybody knocking them!"
Daytime Digest, 1982
 
"Daytime television can be the most exploitive area of show business next to the carnival sideshow--and I was the prize freak. I was treated like one, and I behaved like one."
TV Guide, February 16, 1991
 
"I've always been a pariah in this medium. I don't have the looks of a soap-opera leading man, and I don't have the insides, either."
TV Guide, October 16, 1993
 
"What's wonderful about soap audiences, which I have realized over lo, these decades, is that they are unrelentingly forgiving. They have a fabulous capacity to treat you like a family member who has done wrong for a couple of years but has got his shit together. And it's just 'I knew you could do it. I knew that's what he would have done.' I've experienced that. I've discovered that I can relax, and that the audience's investment in Luke is the same investment I have. What's terrific about it is that my ego is no longer involved with the show. I have ego about my work, but my ego is not involved with the show. There's a real difference there. My ego is involved in what I can produce, what I can offer the show, but if the show's No. 8 as opposed to No. 1, I'm not offended. Because I was there for a long time when it was No. 1, and I'll be there a long time after it's No. 8."
Soap Opera Weekly, April 16, 1996
 
"You can return from the dead, you can play your brother. You...I've played my cousin, I've died in my own arms. It's wonderful.
Oprah, April 7, 1997
 
"The great characters in soaps are all flawed."
TV Guide website, May 14, 1997
 
"I suppose I became a mini-icon with Luke, a barracuda in this little pond. I never anticipated such a thing. It still surprises me, and for a long time I was disturbed by it. The more successful one becomes on a soap, the less opportunity one has to become anything else. I guess I'm the best example of that."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"The better you get, the more you restrict yourself. It frustrated me when I was younger. I didn't have much respect for what I did on a soap. I was always looking for career respect. I know better now. In fact, I have more onscreen time than John Wayne, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford--you name them--put together. I'm acting and people believe Luke Spencer. That's what I'm supposed to do--convince them. It's a very specific talent. I know fine actors who couldn't do what I do because it is too fast. By the same token, my instrument is honed to Rachmaninoff, and to stretch out to play Leonard Bernstein would give me a lot of gratification. But sometimes I don't play Bernstein as well. I know this medium. It's what I do and I'm quite content with it. [Luke] has afforded me a life elsewhere."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"Now I prefer longevity on a soap as compared to a hit-or-miss career all over the planet in films and what not. To be honest, I don't enjoy acting as much as I used to. So it's nice to have a job where I know precisely what is expected of me, how to do it and I'm well paid for it. It's like being a long-distance runner. You go through phases where you think you may pass out or your heart might burst, but you keep going until you get to a place where the endorphins are pumping and you don't even see the finish line anymore. You just keep running.
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"I willingly accept the responsibility for public acceptance of Luke. But I think any actor could do it if he could stand the rigorous schedule--and because it is a career ender, isn't it? I mean, if you have your sights on the bigger pool, you don't want to become known for swimming in this one. It's unfortunate but that's the reality that I and others have experienced. I'm proud to say I've come to accept that as part of the package, the good with the bad. Being a survivor, I do believe the day will come that I will be such an old, well-known actor that things could still turn around. But I don't need that anymore. What I need is time to be in another place and pick up where I was before I was known 20 years ago."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"The show is like doing a play. But you're always in Act II. Act III, the resolution, is always somewhere ahead in the distance. If you resolve one story, it usually catapults you into another. Act I, the characters' pasts, are in Act II as well. It's like living in Act II, awaiting an intermission. Most actors go crazy trying to adjust to that. You can never be sure what the solution will be or if there will be one."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"The audience is endlessly forgiving with those kinds of things. But if you violate character, that's different. That's like screwing with their friends--they won't stand for that."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"These shows are popular because in the real world, there is so little continuity. The appeal is that these people will be there again tomorrow. When you kill off a character, or a cast regular passes away like John Beradino (Dr. Steve Hardy) did last year, it's traumatic to the audience."
Soap Opera News, June 3, 1997
 
"Luke saved the world from being frozen back in '83, when the writers were on strike. Maybe it was written by one of the guards at the front gate. No, really, I prefer a mixture of reality-based stories. But remember, it's called Soap Opera, not Soap Reality. I like the grander emotions."
Soap Opera News, June 10, 1997
 
"Some of the best acting in the Western world is done on soaps. I believe that."
Soap Opera News, June 10, 1997

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